Amid the rhythmic hustle and bustle of Melbourne, Australia’s city scene, perhaps the most distinctive beat is the perpetual clinking and clanking of the city trams. Aside from its famed reputation as the “World’s most livable city” for six consecutive years, Melbourne proclaims another title — the World’s Tram Capital.
Melbourne is home to the world’s largest and best-preserved tram system. During the last century, while a myriad of cities around the world have discarded this “outmoded” system, Melbourne has stubbornly resisted this trend. The city has not only maintained this quaint mode of commute, but also invested to refine and improve its network. Melbourne’s tram system now sprawls across the metropolis, extending in all directions, reaching every corner.
Melbourne’s famed tram system has catalyzed a revival of interest in tramway networks worldwide, from China to the United States and Europe. To Melbournians, trams have become a heritage symbol as well as a source of pride, facilitating a magnificent transit network that bolsters tourism.
In 1889, the city’s first tram line commenced operation, stretching from the now predominantly Chinese suburb of Box Hill to Doncaster. The network has evolved to claim over 30 lines and more than 500 trams, spanning the entire city region.
Trams have been re-embraced by present-day commuters for their practical passenger capacity, cost efficiency, and sustainability amid the backdrop of the hectic city life — which is most commonly punctuated by traffic jams and inconvenient travel.
The history of Melbourne’s historic tram network has been meticulously documented in the Melbourne Tram Museum. Displayed are trams of many shapes, styles, and times. Among those on display is the V-Class tram, which was built in 1906 and was the first to travel the vast Melbourne terrain. Created in 1916, the W-Class claims the bulk of classic trams. It was not until 2002 that the iconic W-Class trams were superseded by a diverse range of modern trams. For visitors, Melbourne offers a free tourist tram experience from a reconditioned W-class.
Please watch this video of a newly restored W-Class tram:
There is also a pioneering piece among the trams of Melbourne. The restaurant tram opened in 1983 and has since been retouched with modern installations, such as air conditioning and other fittings. Despite its rickety exterior, the compartment’s interior is surprisingly stable, quiet, and offers a smooth ride. Windows are tinted so that diners will remain undisturbed from the curious eyes of pedestrians. There are currently three dining cars in operation, rolling three times a day. Despite the slightly upgraded price, the restaurant trams are a popular attraction, with bookings requiring months in advance to secure a table.
The classic interior serves as a portal into the past, emulating Victorian chic — with purple carpet, velvet seats, silver tableware, and classic linen curtains. As the night descends and the street lights begin to glisten, a magical setting materializes. Together with your partner, family, or friends, you can bask in the old world charm of a luxury compartment and enjoy glimpses of the city views.
Trams have become an integral part of the cultural heritage of Melbourne. The city’s extensive tramway network has woven its way through major metropolitan areas for well over a century and is a reminder to urban commuters today not to easily dismiss such an efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transport.
Please watch this video of Melbourne’s iconic trams: